Late October can only mean one thing: It's time for the girls to shine.
As always, Columbia County has more talented volleyball and softball teams than any other county in the area.
Now, let's see how they match up with the rest of the state.
I might sound like a broken (and biased) record here, but the county's best chance at a state title this fall sits with two teams: Greenbrier softball and Augusta Prep volleyball.
The Lady Cavalier volleyball squad took the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA state title last year, and, believe it or not, they're better this time around. They'll have a nice home-court advantage when the GISA state tournament returns to Boardman Gymnasium on Oct. 26-27.
The Greenbrier softball team won't stay at home for the state playoffs, but they won't be playing on unfamiliar ground, either. The Lady Wolfpack will return to Lovejoy Park in Hampton, Ga., for the Class AAAA South State Sectional on Friday and Saturday and should advance to the state finals tournament in Columbus, Ga., on Oct. 25-27.
Greenbrier knows both parks well and, as the No. 2 team in the state, they're favored to find at least some success in both places. The young Lady Wolfpack squad needs to find some more consistent offense and stay perfect defensively if it wants to stick around in Columbus long enough for a shot at a state title.
Although Greenbrier and Augusta Prep are the frontrunners to bring home hardware this fall, they're not the only ones with a chance. Evans' softball team slipped into the Class AAAA top-10 rankings last week at No. 9. The Lady Knights' second-place finish in the Region 3-AAAA Tournament will give them a good seeding in the state sectional. The fact that both Greenbrier and Evans are matched up with a weak Region 1-AAAA in the first round helps both local schools.
With pitchers Laura Brown and Jenny Shepherd, the Lady Knights have the firepower to go deeper in the state playoffs than they ever have before. They just need the bats to wake up.
It's the same problem every year: Columbia County's volleyball teams put together strong regular-season showings, then get rocked in the postseason.
Blame it on the private schools. Those Atlanta recruiters seem to be stacked each year. At Greenbrier, volleyball coach Debbie Boon has prepared her girls well.
The Lady Wolfpack have traveled more than a Wayne County power forward this year. They've played in weekend tournaments at Oconee, Collins Hill, Aiken and Atlanta this year and held their own play day. Despite facing all that talent, Greenbrier entered Thursday's match at Evans with a 36-5-1 record and, in my opinion, more prepared than ever to face the Atlanta private schools.
Now, if only they could stay healthy.
Don't count out Lakeside and Evans on the volleyball court just yet. The Lady Knights are rebuilding after losing all their starters from last year's squad, but they seem to always do well at the region tournament.
The same goes for Lakeside, who, under new coach Danielle Gonzalez, gets the season award for most energetic team if nothing else. They are very capable of shocking a team or two to reach the state sectional and beyond this year.
Still to come
More postseason action is on the way. Columbia County's cross country teams should be more prepared than ever for tournament play because of the new (and extremely challenging) course at Blanchard Woods Park. Cross country teams will live up to their sport's name when they travel to Brunswick, Ga., for the Region 3-AAAA meet Nov. 1. The state meet will follow with a scheduled run date of Nov. 10 in Carrollton, Ga.
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